Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


The Tolhwth] THE SIGNET ANI) ADVOCATES? LIBRARIES. 123 THE genius of Scott has shed a strange halo around the memory of the grim and massive Tolbooth prison, so much so that the creations of his imagination, such as Jeanie and Effie Deans, take the place of real persons of flesh? and blood, and suchtraders. They have been described as being ?a dramdrinking, news-mongering, facetious set of citizens, who met every morn about seven o?clock, and after proceeding to the post-office to ascertain the news (when the mail arrived), generally adjourned to a public-house and refreshed themselves with a libation of brandy.? Unfounded articles of intelligence that were spread abroad in those days were usually named ? Lawnmarket Gazettes,? in allusion to their roguish or waggish originators. At all periods the Lawnmarket was a residence for nien of note, and the frequent residence of English and other foreign ambassadors; and so long as Edinburgh continued to be the seat of the Parliament, its vicinity to the House made it a favourite and convenient resort for the members of the Estates. On the ground between Robert Gourlay?s house and Beith?s Wynd we now find some of those portions of the new city which have been engrafted on the old. In Melbourne Place, at the north end of George IV. Bridge, are situated many important offices, such as, amongst others, those of the Royal Medical Society, and the Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures, built in an undefined style of architecture, new to Edinburgh. Opposite, with its back to the bridge, where a part of the line of Liberton?s Wynd exists, is built the County Hall, presenting fronts to the Lawnmarket and to St. Giles?s. The last of these possesses no common beauty, as it has a very lofty portico of finely-flutcd columns, overshadowing a flight of steps leading to the main entrance, which is modelled after the choragic monument of Thrasyllus, while the ground plan and style of ornament is an imitation of the Temple of Erechtheius at Athens. It was erected in 1817, and contains several spacious and lofty court-rooms, with apartments for the Sheriff and other functionaries employed in the business of the county. The hall contains a fine statue of Lord Chief Baron Dundas, by Chantrey. is the power of genius, that with the name of the Heart of Midlothian we couple the fierce fury of the Porteous mob. ?Antique in form, gloomy and haggard in aspect, its black stanchioned windows, opening through its dingy walls like the apertures ~ Adjoining it and stretching eastward is the library of the Writers to the Signet. It is of Grecian architecture, and possesses two long pillared halls of beautiful proportions, the upper having Corinthian columns, and a dome wherein are painted the Muses. It is 132 feet long by about 40 broad, and was used by George IV. as a drawing-room, on the day of the royal banquet in the Parliament , House. Formed by funds drawn solely from contributions by Writers to H.M. Signet, it is under a body of curators. The library contains more than 60,000 volumes, and is remarkably rich in British and Irish history. Southward of it and lying psxallel with it, nearer the Cowgate, is the Advocates? Library, two long halls, with oriel windows on the north side. This library, one of the five in the United Kingdom entitled to a copy of every work printed in it, was founded by Sir George Mackenzie, Dean of Faculty in 168z, and contains some zoo,ooo volumes, forming the most valuable cpllection of the kind in Scotland. The volumes of Scottish poetry alone exceed 400. Among some thousand MSS. are those of Wodrow, Sir James Balfour, Sir Robert Sibbald, and others. In one of the lower compartments may be seen Greenshield?s statue of Sir Walter Scott, and the original volume of Waverley; two volumes of original letters written by Mary Queen of Scots and Charles I.; the Confession of Faith signed by James VI. and the Scottish nobles in 1589-90; a valuable cabinet from the old Scottish mint in the Cowgate; the pennon borne by Sir William Keith at Flodden; and many other objects of the deepest interest. The office of librarian has been held by many distinguished men of letters; among them were Thomas Ruddiman, in 1702; David Hume, his successor, in, 1752 ; Adani Ferguson ; and David Irving, LL.D. A somewhat minor edifice in the vicinity forms the library of the Solicitors before the Supreme Court
Volume 1 Page 123
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